The habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense) is an extremely hot pepper, one of the hottest, in fact, to be routinely eaten by hot-pepper aficionados. Habanero fruits are glossy red, orange or white, and shaped like a boxy lantern. Habanero plants grow in a similar fashion to other pepper plants, but require special attention to the plants' water, temperature and nutritional needs.
Optimum temperatures for growing hot peppers are between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Texas A&M University Extension. However, the hottest peppers, like habaneros, can tolerate higher daytime temperatures and keep producing through the summer and into the autumn, if sufficient water and nutrients are available to them. Habeneros are grown commercially in the Yucatan, according to the Oregon State University Extension, where the hottest summer months average daytime temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, although nighttime temperatures return to below 80 degrees. However, the University of Maryland Extension warns that daytime temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can cause blossom drop in the plants; when the flowers fall off, they will not produce fruit. If your daytime temperatures will be approaching 100, cool your pepper plants with sprinklers, or drape shade cloth to provide them respite from the hottest sun.
Water and Calcium
Habanero peppers require deep, consistent watering to continually produce abundant fruit and to avoid blossom-end rot, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. Mulching heavily around the plants will also help conserve soil moisture, protecting the roots from the stress of drying out and yielding healthier plants. Blossom-end rot is common in habaneros either when there is inadequate moisture in the soil, or when there is a lack of calcium available to the plants. To avoid this condition, in which the bottom end of each pepper is mushy and brown, the University of Maryland Extension recommends adding a handful of ground limestone into each hole when transplanting peppers into the garden, and avoiding high-nitrogen fertilizers.
Pepper seeds are easy to save and replant the next year. Peppers will sometimes cross-pollinate if different varieties within one species are planted near one another, meaning that the seeds planted from those crosses will not likely grow true to either parent plant. However, the habanero pepper is a different species (Capsicum chinense) from most culinary bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) and most popular hot jalepeno and chili peppers (Capsicum frutescens). Thus, habanero plants will grow true from saved seed if you have grown these other species of peppers in the same garden. However, they can cross with other C. chinense varieties, including the Scotch bonnet, Datil or Naga Jolokia peppers. Avoid growing these varieties near your habanero patch if you wish to save seeds for next year. Select your best, tastiest peppers from the healthiest plants for seed saving. Dry the seeds well, out of sun and wind, and store them in a paper envelope until next year's planting time.